Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Biblio Bits Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School compiled by Jack Canfield et al, Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, 2008 (ISBN 9781935096269)

Reading Level/Interest Age 10-12

Genre Nonfiction

Plot Summary
In typical Chicken Soup style, this book is a collection of stories submitted by readers and fans of the series. The essays are relatively short, typically 2-3 pages. The essays are organized by topic, with sections entitled: Embarrassing Moments, Bully Payback, Being Happy with Yourself, That's My Family, Doing What's Right, and more. Both male and female perspectives are given, though the female perspectives outnumber the male ones. Middle schoolers will relate to the candor and real-life details that are included in each essay: the infatuation of a crush, social foibles, when a teacher/coach seems to pick on you, and those most embarrassing moments that we can't help but cringe while reading. There is a brief bio of each contributor, with a longer biography of each editor.

Critical Evaluation
The writing in this volume is not going to win any prizes, but that's part of the appeal. These essays are written by regular people who have experiences and stories to share, and read almost like those back-page essays in magazines. Tweens will relate to the stories for their easy-going and accessible style. The book lends itself to browsing, thumbing through and stopping to read various essays, instead of a cover-to-cover reading. This might especially appeal to younger tweens who are eager to find out what middle school is really like, but also to tweens who are looking to find validation in their own experiences. The tone is generally positive and with a strong emphasis on overcoming the hardships that are presented.

Reader's Annotation
First crushes and being crushed by rejection, the perils of the lunchroom, and the most embarrassing moments of middle school (think catapulting out of a moving swing, losing your shorts, and landing next to a towel with some hot 16 year-olds, while now completely naked!)--- it's all here in these pages.

Author Information
Jack Canfield, editor and co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series is the CEO of Canfield Training Group in California. His author bio in the book goes on to say: "He has conducted intensive personal and professional development seminars on the principles of success for over a million people in twenty-three countries." Canfield has appeared on many TV shows, received honorary doctorates, as well as a "Guiness World Records certificate for having seven books... on the New York Times Bestseller list on May 24, 1998." Canfield resides in Santa Barbara, CA.

Challenge issues
Mostly very tame and appropriate for tweens, even young ones. Nothing too graphic and nothing too heavy (though there is mention of a teen who attempts suicide).

Booktalking Ideas
Real life stories by real people about the tween and middle school years could be a viable booktalk, including this and other titles (realistic fiction and nonfiction) on the same subject. Or you could tie a booktalk to any of the section headings, such as In Like, In Love, and Just Not Into You for a booktalk around Valentine's Day, or a Mean Girls/Boys booktalk, again with some realistic fiction titles and other memoirs that relate to the topic.

Curriculum Ties
Perfect for use in a Health Sciences unit during middle school or to stimulate creative writing in an English class on memoirs.

Why this book?
It's always gratifying to read about the painful moments of growing up because it shows that the reader is not alone and that others have had similar---or worse---experiences and have lived to tell about it. I cringed through the whole chapter on Embarrassing Moments, both fascinated and horrified, while recalling a few of my own most embarrassing moments of middle school.


Yes! There are Chicken Soup for the Soul books for every time of life, mood, or crisis.

Rockport Public Library owns?

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